The ninth floor is home to three magistrate judges. They are Magistrate Judge Bissoon, Magistrate Judge Mitchell and Magistrate Judge Swearingen. Magistrate Judge Bissoon is the first woman of color to sit on this bench of this Court. The fourth magistrate judge, Chief Magistrate Judge Lenihan, is on the seventh floor. This is what a typical magistrate judge’s courtroom looks like.
Magistrate judges are appointed by the life-term federal district judges. Full-time magistrate judges serve terms of eight years, and part-time magistrate judges serve terms of four years. Magistrate judges conduct a wide range of judicial proceedings to expedite the disposition of the civil and criminal caseloads. With respect to criminal proceedings, magistrate judges preside over misdemeanor and petty offense cases. They also conduct initial proceedings in all types of criminal cases. They conduct initial appearance proceedings and detention hearings, set bail or other conditions of release or detention, and hold preliminary examinations and arraignments. If you get arrested by a federal agency (the FBI, the DEA, the IRS, the SECRET SERVICE, or the POSTAL INSPECTORS), this is your first stop.
Magistrate judges also issue search warrants, arrest warrants, summonses and pen registers. They accept and process criminal complaints, conduct extradition proceedings, conduct evidentiary hearings, and appoint defense attorneys for those who qualify.
In civil proceedings, magistrate judges typically manage discovery and other pretrial matters. They are authorized to issue nondispositive pretrial orders. They write reports and recommendations to the district judges as to matters that can close a case. Such a report or recommendation can be adopted by an Article III judge. With a consent of the parties, a magistrate judge may try a civil case in the same manner as an Article III judge.